An extremist Islamic cleric based in Britain said yesterday that he would support hostage-taking at British schools if carried out by terrorists with a just cause.
Omar Bakri Mohammed, the spiritual leader of the extremist sect al-Muhajiroun, said that holding women and children hostage would be a reasonable course of action for a Muslim who has suffered under British rule.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Mohammed said:
"If an Iraqi Muslim carried out an attack like that in Britain, it would be justified because Britain has carried out acts of terrorism in Iraq.
"As long as the Iraqi did not deliberately kill women and children, and they were killed in the crossfire, that would be okay."
Mr Mohammed, 44, who lives in Edmonton, north London, but is originally from Syria, also claimed that the Chechen rebels were not responsible for the deaths of more than 350 people - at least half of them children - who are so far known to have died in Beslan.
"The Mujahideen [Chechen rebels] would not have wanted to kill those people, because it is strictly forbidden as a Muslim to deliberately kill women and children. It is the fault of the Russians," he said.
The father of seven came to Britain in 1985 after being deported from Saudi Arabia because of his membership of a banned group. He has since been given leave by the Home Office to remain in Britain for five years but the Government is reviewing his status.
He gave an interview yesterday to promote a "celebratory" conference in London next Saturday to commemorate the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon, was infuriated by Mr Mohammed's comments.
"That sounds to me like incitement and I will report him to Scotland Yard," he said. "It is an insult to most moderate Muslims, who are sick of people like this claiming to represent them."